Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Love Lesson by Hanae Sakazaki review

Love Lesson

Author/Artist: Hanae Sakazaki

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Anthology

Grade: C-

You know anthologies can get kind of tiresome. There has to be something in it to really grab my attention. Sadly Love Lesson didn't pack much of a punch and I found it rather forgettable.

I'll try to provide a brief synopsis of each brief one-shot:

Love LessonLove Lesson is the title story. Akagi is a model and actor so he misses a lot of school. To help keep him current on his lessons Shirai offers to tutor Akagi in math. But it seems that there is more than school on Akagi's mind, and yes, it's Shirai. Shirai is determined to keep his relationship with Akagi simply as teacher and student.

Blame It on Spring – Tetsu and "Jim" (the character didn't have a name and it's hard to summarize the story without a name) were friends in high school and have been recently reunited. Jim is excited to be able to spend time with Tetsu again but Tetsu might have ulterior motives now that he's officially come out.

A Broken Piece of You – Saitoh is a college student and is dating Tachibana, a tutor at the same college. One day Saitoh finds a piece of Tachibana's past in his cupboard. When he asks Tachibana about the dish he found, Tachibana clams up. What on earth is up with that small dish and its significance?

Uncle and Me – This is the typical family incest style story that is prevalent in yaoi (which this genre along with shota I just don't understand). Kiyomi is Tohma's granduncle and the two have always gotten along. Kiyomi was always somewhat a bad influence on Tohma but Tohma didn't mind because he loved Kiyomi.

Name In the Sky – Tatsuya and Fumi are non-blood-related cousins that have a thing for each other. This is a very short story (also a very short synopsis).

Don't Love Me Tender – Tomo is rather popular. He frequents bars and always leaves with a new man every night. But he's caught the eye of one of the bartenders named Harada. Harada has fallen for Tomo and wants Tomo to fall for him.

OK, bored yet? I really wanted to like Love Lesson but most of the stories were so formulaic that you forget what you've just read as soon as you were done. The art was fairly flat and messy looking. I have to say one plus is the use of accessories like rings, bracelets, you know stuff like that. I love it when the fashions feel real. Every once in a while you would catch a glimpse of really good stuff but then its gone just as quickly. This book was so memorable (sense the sarcasm of that line please) that I really don't have much to say about it. Of course the actual physical book is nice with the larger trim size and dust jacket that fits the book snugly.

Would I recommend this title? Well… I'm going to leave that one up to you. It's rather forgettable and if you want to read it I would say borrow it from someone you know or buy a cheap used copy. But I'm leaving that decision up to you.

***Review Copy purchased through Akadot Retail***

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Clan of the Nakagamis by Homerun Ken review

Clan of the Nakagamis

Author/Artist: Homerun Ken

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – 16 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Grade: B

Haruka Iijima and Tokiyo Nakagami have been dating for a while now. They met over bizarre circumstances; Nakagami-sensei found someone's pet alligator and Iijima helped him out. They are lovers but have a few things going against them. First, they're men, second, they're student and teacher, and third, Tokiyo's family is rather strange and they love Tokiyo way more than normal. The Nakagami clan is a very weird bunch. They don't seem to age and are devastatingly good looking. Tokiyo's parents look more like siblings, he has an older brother who is a shojo manga artist who cross-dresses, a younger brother who is the same age as Iijima, and a grandfather who looks like an elementary school student and can drink anyone under the table. They all have a weird obsession with Tokiyo, which I don't think is at all healthy. Iijima want to further their relationship but with a Nakagami family member at every turn will they ever be able to go all the way?

There are also a few one-shots found: The Travails of a Struggling Assistant Detective, Thief x Thief (also found in J-Boy by Biblos also published by Juné), and Going to Oikawa-kun's House. These are cute stories but have nothing to do with the madcap adventures of the Nakagami family.

It took me a while for me to decide to pick this title up. It's sad to say that I had to wait until it was at fire sale type prices to convince me to grab it. This was such an enjoyable title. I seriously laughed throughout the whole thing and the story about how Tokiyo and Iijima met had me rolling on the floor. Who knew that gothic/lolita fashions and pet alligators went together? The storytelling is paced rather quickly but there's enough of a story to go with the quick pace to keep you hooked. Homerun Ken-sensei is a very talented artist. The detail is impeccable and even though she has wide eyed characters they have an Asian angle on the eyes, which is very nice to see. In many cases when manga-ka draw their characters they seem to have more of a European look as opposed to an Asian look. I love the shape and angle of Asian eyes and facial features and to see that in sensei's renderings is very refreshing. The panels are laid out in a way that make it easy to read and aren't overly busy. The costuming is great and I honestly wonder how Kijinojyo makes his boobs so large when in cross-dressing mode. You see a wide range of clothing (kimonos, gakuran, suits, etc.) to satisfy any preference. The look is definitely awesome with this manga.

This is a Juné release with the dust jacket, which hugs the book quite well. The pages are a beautiful white but are flexible which makes for nice reading. You won't develop any wrist injuries while reading this manga. The picture on the cover has nothing to do with the story included but it's that madcap feel that makes this an enjoyable read. Sensei mentions in her Afterword that she intends to continue the Nakagami story some more and Juné has plans to release it any time now, it's Clan of the Nakagamis: The Devil Cometh.

I recommend this title to those who like comedic yaoi stories, those who might be new to the genre, and manga fans in general. For a great male perspective on Clan of the Nakagamis check out Tom Good's review at J LHLS.

***Review Copy purchased through Yaoi Club***

Love Code by Sakurako Hanafubuki review

Love Code

Author/Artist: Sakurako Hanafubuki

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: C+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Koji Mizuhara, the hottest thing in Japan right now, and Kyo Ayukawa, a rising star, have been dating for a while now. The two are hot and heavy but most still don't know about their relationship. Mizuhara seems to have a dark past that not many know about and one of Ayukawa's co-workers seems to know more than most. But this co-worker has a chip on his shoulder and seems to be harboring some jealousy toward Mizuhara. Plus there is a history with Saiki (the co-worker) and Mizuhara.

Not only does Ayukawa have to deal with his career and dealing with Mizuhara, but he has a decision to make. Does he always want to walk in Mizuhara's shadow, or does he want to surpass Mizuhara fame-wise? Things seem to be going well for both Ayukawa and Mizuhara and Mizuhara wants to take their relationship public. When Ayukawa finds out about Mizuhara's sordid past through a jealous former lover he realizes how hard Mizuhara has had to work to reach the level that he is at. But Ayukawa seems to want more.

Love Code is a continuation of a story featured in Junior Escort. When I first found out that Junior Escort even had a sequel I was a tad bit worried because I didn't know how many of the stories were going to be continued and I was rather disappointed with many of the stories. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I found out that it was only Junior Escort and Paparazzi Channel that were going to be continued. They were two of the three decent stories. The couple is definitely interesting. Ayukawa is still in high school and of course Mizuhara is the most famous man in Japan and several years older than Ayukawa. Luckily Ayukawa has a good friend he can turn to if he needs to, Tokisada Kujo (the two started working around the same time). I've read through this volume many times and I'm still trying to figure out some things toward the end. I'm hoping that when Crazy Star (the next in the series) comes out it might clear up some of my confusion.

Even though I did like Love Code more than Junior Escort, because this dealt with only one set of characters instead of being an anthology, I'm finding that I'm not a huge fan of Hanafubuki-sensei's art style. There isn't much expression found in the character's eyes and their chins are so pointy I wonder if they can cut diamonds with them. The clothes, even though they're stylish, seem to be baggy. At least hairstyles are varied and the clothes to seem to rotate through more outfits. The sex is present but not graphic and it seems to be more hinted at than shown, which if you are looking for lots of sex you aren't going to find it here. There is a little bit of humor found and some of sensei's chibis are rather funny.

You'll want to read Love Code after reading Junior Escort (at least read the two stories that kick the series off) because jumping right in at this book will probably be a little confusing. Do I recommend reading this title? Well this is just going to have to be up to you because I don't really know quite yet!

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Monday, February 23, 2009

Glass Sky by Yugi Yamada review

Glass Sky

Author/Artist: Yugi Yamada

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Anthology

Grade: A

Yugi Yamada is a great storyteller. I always struggle with anthologies but in the case of reading hers I seem to enjoy them. In Glass Sky you get stories of all shapes and sizes but all enjoyable. I've also referred to Glass Sky in my review of Spring Fever because of the Naoki Suzuki story line found in Wildman Blues. Glass Sky contains the beginning of Naoki's story and a brief extra after Naoki comes out. This is a very touching story and I enjoyed it immensely! Now on with the synopses!

But I'm Young – Aoki and Hiroyuki are coworkers and sex partners. But throw in a girlfriend for Hiroyuki that also works at the same convenience store (and the fact that they Hiroyuki is still a high school student) and madcap adventures ensue.

Could It Be Love/Too Embarrassed to Say – Kojima confessed to Sakamoto and it seems that the feeling is mutual, but when it comes time to seal the deal Sakamoto feels the pressure and becomes impotent. It seems that even the hottest girls can't even help Sakamoto out and Naoki Suzuki (one of my favorite Yugi Yamada-sensei characters) and his golden touch can't get Sakamoto Jr. to stand.

That's All From Me/That's Enough For Today – Two lovers from high school reunite at a Kasa-Go performance. Incorporating the performance of Kasa-Go we see what happened between these two men in both high school and beyond.

Our Symphony – At a prestigious music school a student fantasizes about a gorgeous young man he meets. He got lost looking for the auditorium, but things don't always turn out the way you wish.

The Teacher I Love – Tetsu and Tomoyuki have been dating since high school. Now 7 years later Tomoyuki is a teacher and that world remains a mystery. Tetsu worries about his adorable uke dealing with horny teenage boys and the existence of this world that Tetsu isn't a part of drives him crazy.

Guys, Girls – Guy in love with other guy but has a hard time accepting it seeing how he's only been attracted to girls.

A Little Glass Sky – We've reached the title story and the pinnacle of Glass Sky. Naoki Suzuki is gay, but he hasn't officially come out yet. He's been bullied for years and the bullying has continued even into high school. Many of the other boys beat him up, hide his books and indoor shoes, etc. Sohei Shirai stands up for him but since he's a hothead the two only become friends (sort of). But Naoki feels a pair of eyes on him all the time. That happens to be Yada. Yada is one of the bullies but he seems drawn to Naoki. Yada takes Naoki by force and once they've done the deed Yada then beats Naoki up. Naoki sees that Yada is infatuated with him but when he confronts Yada about it, Yada gets all violent and takes it out on Naoki.

Extras – This is a continuation of A Little Glass Sky but takes place much later. Naoki has come out and looks fabulous. He's now comfortable in his own skin and accepts himself. He shows up at a high school reunion where former bullies apologize and we find out what happened with Yada. Naoki gets his happily ever after.

I often get tired of anthologies because you don't get full character development and they always feel rushed to get to the sex. In the case of Glass Sky (and other Yamada-sensei anthologies) the characters feel much more developed and interesting. The art of course is classic Yamada-sensei. It has a somewhat sketchy feel to it but it is so charming you get drawn into the stories. The art fits the story so well you can't help enjoying this manga. Each story hooks you immediately and won't let you go. I found the way that the story That's All From Me was very interesting. The way that Yamada-sensei weaves the current events with the past all while incorporating the recitation of Kasa-Go makes a fascinating way of presenting culture with a lovely story. The Teacher I Love was a story I enjoyed immensely. I giggled the whole way through and found Tetsu to be just simply adorable. The title story, though, is what makes this a great book. A Little Glass Sky is a very angst filled story and can be rather disturbing. But it shows you an actual gay character and the situations of gay bashing and intolerance that you generally don't see in yaoi. You can't help but feel for Naoki because of all of the bullying that he had to deal with. Luckily he gets his "happily ever after" but to see all of that you have to read the stories that he's featured in (I'll provide a chronological list momentarily).

The only complaint I have about this book is in the production value. Don't get me wrong, Juné won't let you down. The translation and flow work well and I didn't catch any typos. My issue is with the dust jacket and the paper the book was printed on. The dust jacket on my particular book was a little too large so the jacket shifts around easily. The paper is brilliantly white and makes the pages look stunning but it is so heavy and stiff my hands and wrists literally hurt after I read it. Reading shouldn't be an activity that causes you to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If we could have a nice tight dust jacket and the brilliant white paper that is flexible and light that would make this an exceptional book.

Pick up Glass Sky simply for the Naoki Suzuki story. This is a character that is a true yaoi gem, just like Glass Sky is a classic yaoi anthology.

OK, I promised a chronological chart for Naoki's story:

A Little Glass Sky – The story that introduces us to Naoki and his plight (published in Glass Sky by Juné).

Wildman Blues – Naoki is reunited with a childhood friend (published in Spring Fever by Deux Press).

Extras – Naoki confronts his high school class and proves that he's happy and content with life (published in Glass Sky by Juné).

Laugh Under the Sun – Even though this story focuses on two friends of Naoki's, he plays a major role (published in Laugh Under the Sun by Juné).

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Double Trouble by Takashi Kanzaki review

Double Trouble

Author/Artist: Takashi Kanzaki

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: C+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Kou Sawara has a massive crush on his new stepbrother. He'd never had a mother's attention and Naruki Sawara is quite domesticated. Luckily he is able to escape to his dorm at school. But he's in for a surprise; Naruki has followed him to school! Naruki is only a year older than Kou and he adores his new brother. Of course Kou struggles with his own urges to jump Naruki but he takes it upon himself to protect his brother from other perverts at Seiran (their high school). Kou's roommate, Yoshino, offers up his hypnotism abilities to make it so Naruki can protect himself. But Yoshino has an ulterior motive. He's in love with Kou and wants to help him realize that Kou is really the uke instead of the seme that he thinks he is. Once the hypnotism is complete the if the sweet Naruki gets turned on he turns into super aggressive 'seme-Naruki'. It seems that Naruki is also attracted to Kou but is only able to do anything about it while he's in seme-Naruki mode. With Kou now being in the uke position Yoshino is determined to win over Kou.

There's also a brief one-shot at the end called You're the Naïve One. It takes place at Seiran Academy as well. Satoru Shinozaki is called the "homo-making machine" at Seiran. He'll sleep with anyone, but the man he's attracted to only shows what would be seen as motherly care. Riku is Satoru's former roommate. Can Riku's mothering attention be more than just friendship?

Takashi Kanzaki-sensei mentions in her Afterword that she likes drawing these types of stories and I'm beginning to see a trend. The love triangle is present in many of the translated manga that have been penned by Kanzaki-sensei (Heavenly Body, Love Alpha, and now Double Trouble). I kind of liked Double Trouble but not enough to rave about it. Sensei definitely knows how to draw her boys. They're adorable, gorgeous, and handsome, you name it that is what they are. The story lines, however, are starting to become tiresome. You read it thinking "Didn't I just read this same story a few days ago?" It's very predictable and you can pretty much guess the direction the story is going to go in.

When it comes to Digital Manga the other Takashi Kanzaki-sensei titles have been published by 801 Media due to the explicitness of the manga. But Double Trouble is rather clean in comparison, but it is published by Juné which tells you that its not as detailed. There is more of a focus on the absurdity of the story than the sex. So far so good when it comes the production values of the dust jacketless manga.

If you like Takashi Kanzaki-sensei chances are you'll enjoy Double Trouble. If you haven't checked out any of her stories this one isn't too bad to pick up if you want to experience her madcap stories without being bombarded by way more sex than story. If you have read her other manga you'll definitely know you've read this story line before.

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Monday, February 16, 2009

Time Lag by Shinobu Gotoh and Hotaru Odagiri review

Time Lag

Author/Artist: Shinobu Gotoh/Hotaru Odagiri

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – ages 16 and up

Genre: Shonen Ai, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: B

Satoru Tendou has a monster crush on his next door neighbor and long time friend Shirou Sawaguchi. Every year around the same time he always confesses his love and every year he gets turned down. The once warm Shirou has now turned into a cold, cold guy towards Satoru. Now in high school Satoru is the star sports photographer for the school newspaper and Shirou is a hotshot on the track team. When the time of year for Satoru to confess nears he struggles with the idea of not confessing to Shirou. Satoru confides in the editor of the school paper, Seiichi Hiroi. These two have been fairly good friends and Seiichi always comforts Satoru when he gets dumped.

At one of Shirou's track meets, Satoru and Seiichi are casually conversing and Satoru notices that Shirou is staring with love in his eyes in his direction. Feeling dejected Satoru assumes that Shirou was dreamily staring at Seiichi. Satoru's emotions are all over the place and Seiichi seizes on this opportunity. It seems that Seiichi has a thing for Satoru and has been waiting for his chance. Time moves on and Satoru is worried about the rift with Shirou until a letter arrives for him. It is from Shirou and the postmark is three years old. What?

You'll recognize the art right away (at least if you are familiar with Hotaru Odagiri) and Shinobu Gotoh (ignore the typo on the front cover of the book) is well known for the Passion and the Takumi-kun series. When I first read a description about this story I was a little confused. The synopsis I read made it sound like it was a time travel story so I really didn't have much desire to read it. But I ordered it anyway (I got it for a nice cheap price) and I'm glad I did. I know this is the typical love triangle and falling for your childhood friend, but it is so sweet how the three-year-old letter introduces an interesting angle to the story. If you're new to the realm of BL this is a good title to pick up because it shows us the beginning of the relationship. If you want sweaty, hot, passion you won't find it here. But the story moves gently and quickly and is quite refreshing.

This is a good read and you won't regret picking it up. Another review of Time Lag is available at J LHLS by Ginger Mayerson. This review helped me out to decipher the actual plot of the story and piqued my interest.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wagamama Kitchen by Kaori Monchi review

Wagamama Kitchen

Author/Artist: Kaori Monchi

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Grade: C

Wagamama Kitchen is the home to two stories. The first is about Takashi, a high school student who moved in with his brother so he could find a childhood friend that he fell in love with. There was quite an age gap between the two so the guy he's looking for is now an adult. It turns out that Wakana is closer than he thinks. Wakana saves Takashi from a couple of students who try to pick him up. Wakana claims that he's not the man that Takashi is searching for. Things get even stickier when it turns out that Wakana is a chemistry teacher at the same school that Takashi will be attending.

The second story is about Kumaki. He works as a copy machine repairman and has a crush on one of his customers. Kumaki is gay and has fallen for straight Naoto. There seems to be slight attraction on both sides but Naoto is a firecracker and you never know what emotion he's going to show next. Will they get together?

I'm still on the fence in regards to this title. I found myself somewhat disturbed by the first story because of some of the shotacon aspects of the story. That's just not my cup of tea. If we dealt with just a teacher and high school student relationship that wouldn't bother me but there are some flashbacks that give you the idea that Wakana was sexually attracted to a young Takashi. I will admit that the final part of this story was cute though. In the second story I appreciated that we had a gay character. Of course it met many yaoi stereotypes (you know straight character deciding that he can sleep with another man and still say he's straight). But Naoto was a little too violent in his emotions and how he dealt with them for me.

The art isn't too bad. It's kind of sketchy, which is enjoyable from time to time, but not bad, yet there seems to be a heavy reliance on screen tone. The pages can be kind of busy with the art, screen tone and bubbles all in one. I know I'm not making much sense, but I'm struggling to wrap my mind around this volume. It has its positives and negatives. I've read this volume several times and I still can't decide if I like it or not. Another thing that I've struggled with is I wonder if Naoto and Takashi are brothers because the brother in the first story looks like Naoto. Hmmm…

***Review Copy purchased through Yaoi Club***

L' Etoile Solitaire by Yuno Ogami review

L' Etoile Solitaire

Author/Artist: Yuno Ogami

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B-/C+

I know the above grade for L' Etoile Solitaire is a bit convoluted but keep reading I'll try to clear it up for you.

Micah Ryu Remington is the president and founder of Sakura Garden Suites; a company that purchases floundering hotel chains and restructures them to become profitable. Throughout the business world he is known as the Ice Dragon (Ryu means Dragon in Japanese). He shows little emotion and is rather cold but he is good at his job. He's Japanese/American and has his sights set on a small company in Japan to take over. Yuuki Kurahashi has taken over his father's company after his father passed away. He's a young college student who doesn't really have the personality traits to be the president of a company. With word of the Ice Dragon looking to acquire the Kurahashi Hotel chain things are pretty strained and it seems to be taking a toll on Yuuki.

When Micah arrives in Japan he escapes from his Administrative Assistant, Richard, to take a walk down memory lane. While out and about a heavy downpour surprises him and he takes refuge in a bar. At the same time Yuuki has just gotten out of class and was on his way home when he was caught in the same downpour and ducked into the same bar as Micah. Even though the bar was closed they allowed them to dry off. The two immediately hit it off and there might be more feelings there than initially predicted. Micah lost track of time and had to rush out but promised to meet Yuuki at the bar, L' Etoile Solitaire, again.

Things in manga never work out normally or there wouldn't be a story, huh! At the meeting about the takeover of Kurahashi both Micah and Yuuki are in for a surprise. They are of course happy to see each other but now isn't the time. The deal gets placed on hold because Micah had to make an emergency trip back to America. When Micah comes back things with Kurahashi will have to start over again but he can start where he left off with Yuuki, much to the chagrin of Richard, Micah's assistant. Toss in a fiancée and what will happen with Yuuki and Micah?

The reason why I couldn't decide on a grade is because I felt that it was deserving of a grade between a B- and a C+. This is Yuno Ogami's first manga and this is Juné's first Japanese Original English Language manga (a fancy term for a commissioned work). As a first time deal I'm really impressed. I find that in many panels throughout the book the art is truly beautiful but in a few spots the art was a bit weird looking. When looking straight on the characters have very pointy chins and Micah's hair looks like it's painted on (well I guess technically it is painted on, huh?). I guess to describe it better his hair looks more like a helmet. Everybody else has decent hairstyles and it looks more natural. When looking at the full body shots straight on the characters also seem to be missing noses. But like I said some of those shots look weird. But when we have the opportunity to see the characters from different angles they look much better. In some scenes the art is very clean and detailed and screen tone is used in a way that really adds to the art but other scenes look kind of sketchy and could use a little polishing and screen tone. But overall the art is nice (not spectacular but is fairly pleasant).

What I really liked about L' Etoile Solitaire was the story. Again it isn't a groundbreaking new type of story but it is very sweet. I have to say the one thing that really caught my attention was the lack of constantly bringing up the "I'm a guy but I'm in love with another guy, what am I to do?" Micah and Yuuki fall in love and they don't focus on gender. There is sex but if you want it graphic you won't find it (you just get the white shafts and stuff like that). The side characters create enough mischief to move the plot along, but the biggest obstacle in the way is Yuuki's personality. He's very unsure of himself and doesn’t want to be in the way and he feels that he isn't good enough for Micah.

All in all I did enjoy L' Etoile Solitaire. I would have given it a higher grade but for a first time work by Ogami-sensei the grade I did award it is pretty good. I have high hopes for Ogami-sensei because practice makes perfect and the more she produces the better she'll get!

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Heaven's Will by Satoru Takamiya review

Heaven's Will

Author/Artist: Satoru Takamiya

Publisher: VIZ Media

Rating: T – ages 13 and up

Genre: Shojo, Drama, Gender Bender, Supernatural

Grade: B

Mikuzu Sudou hates all things scary, including boys (I don't blame her, boys are frightening). For as long as she can remember she's had the ability to see ghosts and monsters. Because of that she is scared of them. While being chased by one of these monsters she meets an adorable girl named Seto and a handsome young man named Kagari. Seto saves her and informs her that the monsters that are chasing her are Oni and the reason they are chasing her is because she is a Kenki (one who can see them). She learns the Seto is able to exorcise these oni. It also turns out that Seto is actually a guy who dresses in gothic/lolita fashion for women and Kagari is a vampire who is able to turn into a wolf. Seto proposes the idea of protecting Mikuzu for a very large fee. Mikuzu can't meet the terms so her payment is to make Seto cake daily (I wish all bills could be paid this way).

Thanks to Seto she is able to deal with the oni and she is able to deal a little better with men. Some of that might be because Seto looks like a girl. Seto is desperate for large sums of money so he starts to expand his exorcising business. While all of this is going down Mikuzu is trying to get to know Seto and Kagari better, but things aren't working out that well. Kagari doesn't seem to like Mikuzu and the reason why Seto wears girls clothes is he wants to be closer to his sister (and he claims he looks good in them). Can Mikuzu get through all of the mysteries and get closer with these two guys?

Heaven's Will was enjoyable but it could have been better if it was made into a series. There is so much information that needs to be covered but there isn't enough space to make it all in there. This is a great shojo title for those who like the goth/loli look. The outfits that Seto wears are definitely in that vein. I had a hard time relating to the characters because according to them if you can't see ghost you don't believe that they're there. Do I believe in ghosts? Well in a roundabout way I do. Can I see them? No, I don't have a sixth sense (I do own the movie though). Seto is dealing with some huge guilt issues and Kagari is handsome but kind of a jerk.

Even though I had these couple of issues I did like the manga. The costuming is great and it was an interesting, quick read. The panels were easy to read and the heavy reliance on screen tone was absent (which that can really mess things up). If you are into the gothic/lolita scene I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy this title. Also fans of supernatural stories will like it as well. I recommend it!

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

The Manzai Comics vol. 1 by Atsuko Asano and Hizuru Imai review

The Manzai Comics vol. 1

Author/Artist: Atsuko Asano/Hizuru Imai

Publisher: Aurora Publishing

Rating: T – 13 and up

Genre: Shojo, Comedy, Drama, School Life

Grade: B

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Manzai: Japanese stand-up comedy style. It is usually performed as a duo with one straight man and one funnyman (basically Japanese Abbott and Costello type routines).

Takashi Akimoto wants to make it as a manzai performer but he can't seem to find the right partner. That's the case until new student Ayumu Seta transfers to his school. Ayumu has had a rather traumatic past and wants to put that all behind him and be a normal middle school student. He hopes that will be the case until Takashi approaches him and asks, "Please go out with me." Being a bit weirded out Seta thinks that Takashi is gay, but Takashi only wants Ayumu to perform manzai. Ayumu eventually agrees, reluctantly. What Ayumu can't figure out is why Takashi insists that he is the one to perform. Takashi wants to convince Ayumu that being normal is overrated and that Ayumu is special. When the school festival approaches Takashi and Ayumu have the opportunity to perform. Will it work out?

When reading this story knowing what manzai is is definitely a plus. Of course you learn what is through the course of the story, but when I first cracked open this manga I thought that it had something to do with comics (you know the kind you read in the paper, etc.) You quickly learn that no, it's about stand up. I liked this first volume immensely, especially the humor. I loved Takashi's mom. She owns an okonomiyaki restaurant and has become fond of Ayumu. Ayumu's mom is a bit more solemn but knowing the past history of the family you can see why. She wants Ayumu to be a normal kid, but there just seems to be something special about Ayumu bubbling under the surface.

I loved the message that this manga presents. I know that in Japan standing out isn't much of a positive quality but in this manga it recognizes and celebrates those that stand out. Hooray for the unique! I wasn't a huge fan of the art but it's not bad either. The story is what makes this manga stand out. You'll laugh and be touched all at the same time. There's even a touch of what looks like BL (boys love) in it but who knows what's in store for us. This is a series of three volumes and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. Let's hope that the rest of the series is just as awesome! And remember being normal is highly overrated, I'd rather stand out and so should you, it makes life more interesting!

***Review Copy provided by Aurora Publishing***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Gaba Kawa by Rie Takada review

Gaba Kawa

Author/Artist: Rie Takada

Publisher: VIZ Media

Rating: T – 13 and above

Genre: Shojo, Comedy, Drama, School Life, Supernatural

Grade: B+

Rara has come to the human world for two reasons: to cause as much mischief as she can, and catch the eye of the demon world's hottest celeb Hiroshi "Aku" Akusawa. Little does she know that a case of mistaken identity is going to throw everything into chaos. You see demons become more powerful when they cause mayhem and mischief but when they use their powers to help a human they lose that power forever.

There is a rival for Aku's affection, fellow demon Bibi. Bibi knows that Aku is attending the same high school as she and Rara but she chooses to keep that info to herself so she can get to Aku before Rara. Now that Rara knows that Bibi is after Aku she decides to go on the hunt. She has the ability to fly and as soon as she's about to leap off a tall building some mysterious and handsome stranger leaps with her trying to save her from committing suicide. This mysterious stranger seems to go by the name Aku, so of course Rara immediately assumes that he is THE Aku.

This Aku attends the same school as Rara and Bibi and Rara is going to do anything she can to capture Aku. That is until she finds out that this Aku is actually Retsu Aku a normal human. But it's too late, she seems to have fallen for Retsu. What will a lovesick demon to do and now that she's fallen in love with a human what is her fate?

I wasn't going to pick up this title because I didn't have much experience with VIZ Media titles (at the time). I know, dumb reason to not pick up a manga, but I'm shallow like that. I read a few reviews for it and they seemed to be fairly positive so I broke down and bought it. I have to say one nice thing about VIZ and their Shojo Beat line is that it is fairly reasonable in price so you won't break the bank picking up a few of their titles. I found this title to be very cute, indeed. I enjoyed it and found it to be a fun read. I will admit that it's not like reading something intelligent, like Shakespeare or Dickens, but as a manga to break up the monotony of BL anthologies that I was slogging through it was truly a breath of fresh air.

Rara and her antics are hilarious especially dealing with the time she was trying to become closer to Retsu and some of the girls in school were saying that he's gay. So in an attempt to get him interested she trades uniforms with a male student and tries coming off as a tomboy. I have to say it was very clever and it was fun to read. Of course Retsu is gorgeous and with his ability to see and communicate with ghosts makes things messier for Rara because of the fact that she's a demon. And you thought that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus.

The art is very cute and Takada-sensei's chibis are simply adorable. She makes them kind of chubby, they're almost cherubic. The visual comedy is handled well and the art really makes the story come alive. Unlike some shojo manga there isn't a heavy reliance on screen tone, flowers, bubbles, and ribbons. The panels are actually really quite clean and laid out in an easy to read pattern. One complaint though, I think this could have been presented in a multi volume series because there is a lot of material in this one shot and the story could benefited from a slower pace.

As a shojo title I think Gaba Kawa is a worthy choice. It's very fun and cute and you won't regret spending an hour or two (depending on how fast you read) with Rara.

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Where Has Love Gone? by Ryoku Tsunoda review

Where Has Love Gone?

Author/Artist: Ryoku Tsunoda

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Salarymen

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Motoi Takayama is a successful salesman at a pharmaceutical company. He admires his co-worker Ryouichi Ishikawa for his perfection in all aspects. He's talented at his job, he's hardworking, and gorgeous. Takayama is gay and he can't help but catch himself staring at the handsome man from time to time. No one knows Takayama is gay and he wants to keep it that way. That all changes one night when a chance encounter with none other than Ishikawa witnesses a make-out scene between Takayama and a man. Takayama is worried about the fallout of this discovery and figures he's as good as fired. Thankfully Ishikawa feels that whatever happened outside of work should stay there unless it is going to affect your performance. As the day progresses, however, things turn all topsy-turvy. Takayama has an excellent day of sales while Ishikawa has a terrible day. He tries to blow off some steam with a lady in the office but she runs off in huff. Since Takayama is the only one left Ishikawa forces himself on Takayama. He doesn't seem to see a problem with it because Takayama's gay, so he likes it right?

Ishikawa's actions made it possible for Takayama to see Ishikawa as a man instead of a God. Whenever Ishikawa needs to blow off steam he immediately approaches Takayama instead of finding a female companion. Takayama tries to convince Ishikawa that even though they are both enjoying the sex now, Takayama is gay and Ishikawa is his type. Will things continue in the way?

When a manga opens up with a forced sex scene you figure that you aren't going to like the rest of the book, at least that's how I see it. But I found myself really liking this manga. The relationship seemed very natural. In other yaoi manga the seme always seems to be the one in control but in Where Has Love Gone? Takayama is the one with the upper hand. He handles himself with grace and poise and continually tries to convince Ishikawa to end things before they get serious. Takayama could easily fall in love and he informs Ishikawa of that fact. Ishikawa is always the one on his toes and is doing all of the chasing.

The art in this volume is beautiful. At the start you don't think it is going to be spectacular but paired with the story makes it so pleasing to the eye that I really want to see more from Ryoku Tsunoda-sensei. The panels are laid out in a way that makes it very readable. The chibis are handled adorably and are sprinkled about without being overwhelming. The use of screen tone is also done well. Sometimes you get manga that rely on it heavily and it make the art so overbearing that it turns out unattractive, but not in this case. Even though Juné no longer feature dust jackets on their books they still feature the larger trim size. I must admit I did have a soft spot in my heart for the dust jacket but the covers are still beautiful. It is kind of nice not having to wrestle with the dust jacket now that I think about it.

I recommend Where Has Love Gone? highly because once you get past the first few pages it really is a great manga. Plus it's nice to see actual gay characters in boys love manga. The plethora of beautiful boys in suits doesn't hurt either.

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Tricky Prince by Yukari Hashida review

Tricky Prince

Author/Artist: Yukari Hashida

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Romance

Grade: A-

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Eugene is an impoverished student at university. Because he's poor and only getting by because of his scholarship all he does is study. At his university there is a very high profile student there. It happens to be the prince of the country, Willis. Eugene doesn't have time to worry and speculate what the prince is up to, unlike many of those that live in his dorm enjoy doing. When the dorm Christmas party arrives Eugene is holed up studying when his roommate and other dorm residents ambush him and dress him in drag for the party. Since Eugene is nearsighted (his fellow residents hid his glasses) he stumbles right into the Prince Willis. Since Eugene has no idea who he's addressing, he pulls no punches in his comments. Willis thinks that Eugene is dressed this way for a gag and immediately is drawn to him. It turns out that there was a paparazzo following Willis and took a picture of these two in an embrace.

Eugene's life is virtually over. Willis is taken by Eugene's stuffy attitude and he will do anything and everything to have Eugene as a friend. Willis is extremely clever and tries to gain favor with Eugene. Eugene seems to be drawn to Willis as well but isn't willing to go as far as admitting that. Willis bombards Eugene with tons of unwanted attention, but he will do anything for Eugene. Plus, Willis is bored so he finds being with Eugene breaks the monotony of Palace life. Will Willis be able to break down Eugene's will?

In crawling through the web and reading other reviews for Tricky Prince I share a different view. The other reviews seem to enjoy the first half of the manga but then become disillusioned by the end. I enjoyed this manga from beginning to end. Initially when I first picked up a Yukari Hashida-sensei title I didn't think I was going to like it because the art was kind of distracting, but once I was drawn into the story I found that the art and story make Hashida-sensei one very cool mangaka. I will admit that if you've ever read her works you'll notice that many of her characters all look alike (like the character of Prince Sardony, Willis' brother, in Tricky Prince and Joe's father in Waru look like the same person just a different hairstyle). But I find Hashida's wit and comedy that you find in her works refreshing and fun. I laughed from beginning to end. Willis's attempts to woo Eugene all fail but he doesn't know the meaning of the word quit. Eugene is able to rebuff all of Willis's attempts where most people would give their right arm to be with Willis. This push and pull is what made this story enjoyable to me.

This is one of the final volumes released by Juné that has a dust jacket. It's glossy and gorgeous, but that isn't what makes this volume a good read. It's the story and the wit of Hashida-sensei that makes this a fun manga. If you are looking for hot, sweaty passion you aren't going to get it. It has an M-rating but it isn't because of sex (since there isn't really any). But sometimes you need to read a BL manga for something other than sex and Tricky Prince is a great one to curl up with for a good laugh.

If you want to avoid this title because of other reviews, that's totally cool, but just know that not all of us think that way and know that I found this to be a jewel in a mountain of mediocre BL titles.

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hero Heel vol. 3 by Makoto Tateno review

Hero Heel vol. 3

Author/Artist: Makoto Tateno

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

We've reached the explosive final installment in the Hero Heel trilogy. I will provide links to my reviews and other J LHLS reviews for the first two volumes at the end of the post.

Trans-Dimensional Warriors Airguard is headed towards the series end. That fact is starting to sink in and everyone is working very hard to put in their best performances. The romances between Minami and Katagiri and Takagi and Sawada seem to be going on, full steam ahead. But things are just bubbling under the surface. Sawada doesn't seem to be satisfied with sleeping with Takagi so he has a parade of partners going in and out of his apartment. Minami is confused because of Sawada's bizarre behavior towards him. Katagiri and Takagi are caught in the middle of this stormy relationship.

Sawada hides an injury that he sustained on set and is struggling to hide it. Minami showing concern, as a co-worker, heads over to his apartment with first aid supplies. Sawada behaves strangely again and when Takagi shows up Minami is worried about what Takagi is thinking. Soon a rumor starts to spread about Takagi and Sawada have broken up. Will Minami own up to his feelings towards Sawada? Will Sawada admit his feelings for Minami? How will it all end? You'll just have to read Hero Heel vol. 3 to find out.

It is so satisfying to read this volume in English. I own the original Japanese volume but I don't know the language so I had to go by the pictures. But now I can enjoy it in English. Things wrapped up nicely. But it was tumultuous all the way to the end. Makoto Tateno-sama really knows her stuff. She is a master of whatever genre and story setting she decides to tackle. With this story about actors she not only makes things realistic back stage but also everything with the art to the plot of the story. The art is spectacular in this series. Her costuming to set designs are so rich, stunning, and detailed you can't help but be captivated by it.

The story is what really makes this a great series. Sawada is the guy that you love to hate because of the way that he treats Minami but you secretly want to cheer him on. Minami is the epitome of the uke because he's weepy and needy which can get on your nerves but you don't see much of the weepy uke in this third volume. Your heart goes out to Katagiri because he loves Minami so much and winds up with his heart broken. Even though the story ends I imagine a happy ending for Katagiri sometime in the future.

Hero Heel is a great series. I highly recommend it. Not only for the story but also for Tateno-sama's amazing skills at weaving a beautiful tale with gorgeous art. Check out this series, it's definitely worth your time!

I almost forgot, here are the reviews for the first two volumes of Hero Heel:
Hero Heel vol. 1 review by Ginger Mayerson
Hero Heel vol. 1 review by Kris
Hero Heel vol. 2 review by Kris
Hero Heel vol. 2 review by Jilly Gee.

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Blue Sheep Reverie vol. 1 by Makoto Tateno review

Blue Sheep Reverie vol. 1

Author/Artist: Makoto Tateno

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Action

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Kai has traveled to this city with no name for one reason, to find the murderer of his lover Maria and exact revenge. Maria wore a distinct ring and when the murderer fled the scene he was wearing her ring. While watching the television he saw a man wearing Maria's ring. That man was Lahti Bara, a one-man killing machine in the nameless town. Kai will get a job working under Lahti and take his chance at revenge. But Lahti isn't nicknamed "Steel Lahti" for nothing. He is the public face of the gang Sarte. He is quick thinking, light on his feet, and has a knack for fighting. Kai figures that being one of his posse will be the quickest way to get his vengeance.

After jumping Lahti on the street to show him his fighting prowess Kai is taken in by the Sarte group and he does become one of Lahti's bodyguards and even begins training with the man himself. Kai finds out that Lahti is gay and uses this opportunity to get even closer to Lahti. While in bed Kai tries to take the ring and some of the truth comes out. Even though Lahti wears a ring, it's not Maria's. Kai loses face because of this incident but continues to come to Lahti's aid. A surprise is in store for Kai. It turns out that Maria isn't dead at all. She implanted a chip in Kai's head and had used this to alter his memory during the incident. Maria is also Lahti's twin sister. It also seems that Maria is now aligned with the rival gang. It's just the beginning of this intense action packed tale penned by the one and only Makoto Tateno-sama.

I thought that the name Blue Sheep Reverie was a very weird name for a manga. It still is a weird name but at least now I know the origins of the name. It seems as though the rings that Lahti and Maria are blue and look like sheep's eyes. This is the "prequel" (in a very rough sense of the word) to another title Tateno-sama title, Steal Moon. Really all that these two stories have in common is Lahti and Kai showing up as minor characters. If you are looking for a hardcore yaoi title you won't find it in this volume of Blue Sheep Reverie. According to Tateno-sama this was originally written as a shojo title but then a boys love magazine picked it up. So yes a woman plays a larger role and there isn't much in boys getting it on. But I have high hopes for the next volume. The series currently has two volumes released in Japan and is still ongoing so who knows what is in store for us.

I can't rave enough about the art that Tateno-sama provides for us. But along with her immaculate art style she is an amazing storyteller. I was riveted from the beginning. Each character is unique in their look as well as their personalities. Maria is the ultimate villain. Tateno-sama has the ability to create strong women characters for her stories and Maria is definitely strong character, even though she's the antagonist. Lahti is a character that you can't help feel for even though he is a cold guy. Kai is endearing and he brings a lot to the story.
For fans of Makoto Tateno-sama this is a don't miss title. If you've checked out Steal Moon this is a title that you'll want to read as well. Even if you haven't read Steal Moon I recommend it. If you're new to her work just sit back and enjoy her gorgeous men, beautiful women, and all around stunning art. Definitely check out Blue Sheep Reverie vol. 1.

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Sea View by Ayumi Kano review

Sea View

Author/Artist: Ayumi Kano

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – 16 and up

Genre: Shonen-Ai, Drama

Grade: C+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Kei Tsuwabuki grew up admiring his grandfather. After the two were separated they exchanged letters. But then the letters stopped which encouraged Kei to travel to the island that he inhabits. He decides to attend the college that his grandfather taught at for many years, hoping to unearth clues of his whereabouts. When he arrives at the college he meets school eccentric Michiru Bangi. He is a very talented architect in the making and knew Kei's grandfather. Kei and Michiru became friends due to this commonality and Michiru reminded Kei of his grandfather.

Yet there seems to be something a bit strange about all of this. Why did his letters stop coming and why can't Kei seem to locate anything about where his grandfather might be? He tries to confront Michiru about all this but is unable to get any information from him. Soon Michiru begins to act even stranger than usual and the situation surrounding the disappearance of Kei's grandfather seems to be the root cause.

In Sea View there is also a brief story called Thou of the Blossoms. It is about a young photographer who has been granted unprecedented permission to photograph the gardens of a prestigious family in Kyoto and the relationship he forms with the young head of the family.

I think I might be a bit idiotic but I can't seem to see any yaoi aspects to this story. The only clue to this being a boys love title is the fact that it is published by Digital Manga's Juné imprint. The two tales just seem to come across as these men becoming good friends and that's it. Which there isn't anything wrong with that, it just doesn't fall into my definition of yaoi. I'm still trying to decide whether I like this story. The art is definitely gorgeous and Ayumi Kano-sensei definitely has a beautiful art style. It reminds me a little of Yuko Kuwabara-sensei, which is another artist I really enjoy. The story was a bit confusing to me, but that might be my idiocy showing through again. It also ends a bit strangely. It is only a one-shot deal but you want to find out if they locate the grandfather. That just might be me wanting to have a happy ending and have everything wrap up nicely. The setting is quite nice though. You can't beat a small rural community on a small island.

This is presented with the signature dust jacket that Juné is known for, but it is one of the final volumes that you will see with the jacket. Juné continues with the excellent quality and this is visually beautiful.

I don't want to compare volumes by the same artists but I enjoyed Sea View more than Passionate Theory. But still you'll have to decide on your own whether you want to read this title or not.

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On a Manga Journey


Okay so I made the plea a little more dramatic than usual, but I like to cause panic every once in a while. I realize that many of the reviews that show up here at Manic About Manga are Boys Love titles. Believe me I love yaoi and read a lot of it. But I'm trying to expand my horizons beyond what I'm currently reading. There are so many wonderful titles out there that fall into different categories like shojo, shonen, and seinen titles. So readers here is my plea. Please send me recommendations of titles that I should be checking out but maybe I haven't thought about. There are some shojo and shonen titles that I've read I just haven't gotten to posting the reviews. Please leave your comments because I welcome all. I'll even accept yaoi titles as well. Also they can either be manga and/or manhwa titles. Please help a girl out!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Desire by Maki Kazumi and Yukine Honami


Author/Artist: Maki Kazumi/Yukine Honami

Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing

Rating: M – ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: B

Love isn't all fluffy bunnies and fuzzy slippers (huh?!) and Toru Maiki is the first one to admit that. He's fallen in love with his best friend Ryoji Nakajo but he can't do anything about it. Ryoji is a star on the swim team and sought after by girls near and far. So Toru must deal with his emotions alone. One day at lunch Ryoji tells Toru that he gets turned on when he looks at him. What kind of a comment is that to make when talking to your best friend of the same sex? Of course that weirds Toru out because he knows that Ryoji is a playboy. A few days later we find out that Ryoji and his new girlfriend have already started sleeping together. This bothers Toru because of his feelings for him. Toru is a talented artist and those around him have high hopes. One day during Art Club Ryoji made a point to stop by and ask Toru to wait for him after school so they could walk home. Earlier that day Ryoji basically propositioned Toru. Because of Toru's feelings he couldn't really say no to him.

After their first time (which is kind of disturbing the way everything went down) Toru is more confused than ever. He begins to confide in Kashiwazaki, president of the Art Club. Not long after Ryoji and Toru are sleeping together on a regular basis and Toru is struggling with it. He knows that Ryoji has no feeling towards him other than friendship and it makes this whole situation harder. Kashiwazaki comes up with a plan. Can Toru go through with it? Does Ryoji actually feel more for Toru than he is letting on?

Yukine Honami is a truly gifted artist. She has a beautiful, soft style that can bring any story to life. The story that Maki Kazumi created benefits greatly by having someone like Honami-sensei illustrating it. Desire as a whole is a good manga, but it does have some issues that make it a smidge disturbing. Most of that concern is that "No" doesn't mean no in this manga. I feel that if someone is pushing you in a direction that you don't want to go they need to respect your wishes. But this is a normal yaoi plot point and because I read this manga after I've been exposed to everything under the sun in the yaoiverse it didn't surprise me as much. I still feel that "No means no" regardless of whether your body is saying something different. Besides all that that this was a good read, mainly because of the art. It is riveting and you will want to read it to the end. Ryoji is definitely dead sexy and Toru is pretty gorgeous as well. I find the side characters interesting as well. You can't help but feel for Kashiwazaki in his unrequited feelings towards Toru. Tadashi, Toru and Ryoji's friend, is the conscience of the story.

This is an early title from Digital Manga, seeing how the copy I have has the purple DMP band at the bottom of the cover. For some reason the feel of the dust cover on this volume has a different feel to it (at least to me, but when it comes to tactile sensations I notice weird things like that!) Also instead of the Parental Advisory warning wasn't printed on the cover, they just placed a sticker on it. But that isn't really important, is it. This is what I get for writing a review when I'm very tired and on the verge of falling asleep at any minute.

I say check out Desire even if it's only to admire Honami-sensei's art. Juné has also published the light novel Desire: Dangerous Feelings that covers the material found in the manga but also added more to the story after the happy ending. If you decide to read Desire picking up the light novel is also a good idea because it adds to the story and solidifies the story.

***Review Copy purchased through Yaoi Club***

Love Quest by Lily Hoshino review

Love Quest

Author/Artist: Lily Hoshino

Publisher: Yen Press

Rating: M – ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Grade: B-

Kazunori Akabane has just had his heart broken. He confessed his love to Fumiko Harada just to be told that she was in love with another student at their school, Satoru Moriya. Unbeknownst to either Akabane or Moriya their destinies will soon be entwined.

After Akabane confessed and was turned down all he could do was complain about Moriya to a friend of his. He's never even met Moriya but he hates him intensely. While having a fit out in the middle of the street he runs into someone. Next thing he knows he's being sucked into an alternate universe with the dude he ran into. While still trying to figure things out a girl in a skimpy bikini shows up to save them from a monster. But it seems that for her magic to work properly is an exchange of bodily fluids must be made. The easiest way of course is for these two young men to share a kiss. But Akabane's mood turns from confusion to anger when he finds out that this other guy is none other than Moriya. Will they be able to make it back to their home world or will Akabane be forced to kiss his rival forever?

In Love Quest there is also a short one-shot story called Pheromone that is a sweet PWP (Plot, What Plot) that is really quite visually graphic that kind of surprised me, which it really shouldn't because I've seen just as graphic stuff in other stories. But there isn't much published by Lily Hoshino and what we do have from her isn't graphic at all.

One thing I have noticed about Love Quest is that this story made a little more sense than some of Hoshino-sensei's other work. But there was still a little lacking. We know that Moriya has a thing for Akabane because he says that he's been in love with Akabane for a long time. But we don't know why, there's no back-story. We are introduced to Georg and Earl, the antagonists in the story, but we really don't know who they are and Earl really looks like a girl (which I have noticed is nothing new with Hoshino-sensei). It seems that Harada (Akabane's crush) was also summoned to this world but we don't know her purpose either. It mostly focuses on the right here, right now of Akabane and Moriya's relationship. That said I was still drawn into the story. I think it has to do with Hoshino-sensei's art style. She draws apple-cheeked boys with doey eyes and they really are beautiful. Some may not like her because of things they've seen in some of the other releases. She does have the tendency to draw her guys very feminine like. But in Love Quest the only boy who looks like a girl is Earl and we don't see much of him. It was rather refreshing reading something by Lily Hoshino-sensei where the characters looked like guys (a nice change if I do say so myself).

This is my first Yen Press title that I've ever checked out. Yen Press seems to focus on the manhwa side of things but they do from time to time release manga titles. Since I haven't ever read any of their titles until Love Quest I have to say, man do they have an amazing product! The books are very flexible but boast brilliant white pages. They have a full color cover sheet and have done an excellent job in translation. I loved how the sound effects were translated. They presented the romaji (the phonetic translation of the kana symbols) and then in parenthesis they included what we are used to here in the west. Awesome! Even though this is my first look at Yen Press I can tell you that it isn't going to be the last. Later on this year they are publishing two more Lily Hoshino-sensei titles (Mr. Flower Bride and Mr. Flower Groom) that I will definitely be picking up. Since the manhwa side of things hasn't seemed to catch on (but I've dabbled in it a little) with Yen Press' quality I may have to pick up some of their titles and become more familiar with what they are bringing to our shores.

Check out Love Quest because it doesn't resemble any of Lily Hoshino's other works that have been published in English. If you were turned of because of some of her other stories due to her girly looking men (which is what turned me off to some of her work, but I've had to change my opinion somewhat due to her gorgeous art style) this is definitely one to pick up. Even though the story was lacking in many spots you can't help but be captivated by the fantastical story and inventive art style.

***Review Copy purchased through***

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Necratoholic by Maguro Wasabi review


Author/Artist: Maguro Wasabi

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Supernatural, Fantasy

Grade: A

Sakuya is a vampire of noble blood. Atsumi is a dhampir, a vampire hunter. These two have been locked in combat for years. And it seems that once Sakuya drank Atsumi's blood he now can't seem to stand the sight, smell, or taste of anyone else's blood. Which is not good if you are a vampire. Sakuya only gets by on nibbling rose petals. It also seems that Sakuya and Atsumi have a bizarre game of tag. This time it's Sakuya's turn to find Atsumi but Sakuya is having a hard time. While searching for Atsumi is Sakuya's number one priority, he has a job on the side. He's Hotel Necrato's famous S&M Queen. But there doesn't seem to be much in the way of work for Sakuya lately because he can't stand blood.

Just when Sakuya's hopes are dashed in ever finding Atsumi, guess who comes waltzing into Hotel Necrato. Atsumi. He claims he's only selling life insurance policies and has given up on the vampire hunter life. Of course that's a big fat lie but he won't tell Sakuya what is going on. Then a mysterious man by the name of Van Helsing shows up from England investigating Sakuya and the fact that Atsumi has committed a huge sin by sleeping with a vampire.

Necratoholic is a wild game of cat and mouse from beginning to end. I generally don't like vampire tales but Necratoholic was a very enjoyable title. I know that every time I read a vampire manga I say that I'm pleasantly surprised, and again in this case I am. I don't find myself drawn to vampires like some around me do and I just don't find vampire lore at all interesting. In the case of Necratoholic I found it funny and clever and very unique. Each character cracks me up. There is a scene where Sakuya ventures outside during the day wearing some bizarro getup that his caretakers jokingly told him would protect him from the sun. He takes them seriously and dons the outfit. The characters are captivating and interesting and really draw you into the story. The art is absolutely adorable. The characters are very good looking and costuming they use is so amazing. Because we are dealing with vampires we see them in gothic/lolita looks and with the S&M aspect we get bondage gear too.

The first copy I had had a printing issue so I had to take it back and pick up another copy. I must say that when you have the complete volume the way it is supposed to be the story makes a whole lot more sense. This is a fun romp on the dark side with cute art and a wild story. You don't want to miss Necratoholic.

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lover's Flat by Hyouta Fujiyama review

Lover's Flat

Author/Artist: Hyouta Fujiyama

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Slice of Life

Grade: A+

It all started on Christmas for Kouno and Natsu. Kouno has a crush on his best friend but he doesn’t want to ruin his friendship. Instead of spending Christmas alone Natsu spends it with Kouno in Kouno's small flat. After a night of drinking one thing leads to another and they go all the way. Natsu, having been deflowered (although does that work with the seme?) by this experience he wants to continue his sexual relationship with Kouno. Kouno reluctantly agrees but is that really enough for these two?

Next door to Kouno live Naomichi and Kei. You must realize that these apartments are like very studio apartments. Kei is a university student and Naomichi is working several part-time jobs. These two have been friends since childhood. One day out of the blue Kei confesses to Naomichi. Of course Naomichi is shocked by this revelation and doesn't know how to deal with this rush of emotion. By sheer coincidence he runs into his neighbor, Kouno, and the two strike up a friendship after Naomichi finds out that Kouno is gay. After a night of drinking Naomichi decides to enter into a relationship but he wants to take things slowly. What lies in store for these two couples?

Hyouta Fujiyama-sama is amazing. I love everything that she does. She is an amazing storyteller and a truly talented artist. Her characters look like everyday people but are so handsome you can't help but find them truly gorgeous. The interaction between the characters is fascinating and the friendship forged between these four men is so interesting. Natsu and Kouno's relationship is very hot and passionate whereas Naomichi and Kei's relationship is handled much more slowly because of Naomichi's reluctant nature.

Juné is the only publisher that prints Fujiyama-sama's titles. And I don't think that there is a better publisher out there for her work. With the larger trim size and higher quality printing materials really showcase her beautiful artwork. Juné has published several of her titles but I would like to see more of them come to our shores. Whether Juné or any other publisher takes them on, just know that you would have one very happy reader.

When it came to Fujiyama-sama I didn't think that I would like her as much as I do. I thought that her guys looked a little strange, but I decided to pick up her work anyway. I was in for a huge shock because I immediately fell in love. Was it the understated yet still amazing art that grabbed my attention? Was it the storytelling that sucked me in? It was both of course. The art and the storytelling go hand in hand and weave a stunning and beautiful piece of work. If you are like me and aren't sure if you want to check Fujiyama-sama's work, trust me you won't be disappointed with her. You'll just want more and more!

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Almost Crying by Mako Takahashi review

Almost Crying

Author/Artist: Mako Takahashi

Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing

Rating: YA – 16 and up

Genre: Shonen Ai, Drama, Romance

Grade: C+

Almost Crying is an anthology of boys love stories by Mako Takahashi. If you like anthologies and ultra adorable characters this will be the perfect volume for you. The stories consist of a guy who fell for a street poet who turns out to be his boss at his new part-time job, a new take on "The Little Mermaid," a boy who pretends to be a robot dog so his new brother won't abandon him, a guy with a crush on his neighbor who happened to date his sister, a boy who wanted to cheer his crush up from a break up, a guy who loves dolls and falls for a toy store clerk who looks like his favorite doll, and the title story where two boys come across an orphan in a park.

The art in this is cutesy in every sense of the word. You never really know the ages of the boys in the stories unless they mention their own age and even then it makes you wonder. They all look like prepubescent boys even when they are supposed to be adults, high school students, etc. I will admit that the art is cute but it can make you feel a little uncomfortable because they look like they're children.

I'm a bit tired of anthologies because many of the titles that I've been reading (mainly older Juné titles that I may have missed in my original manga buying flurry) have been anthologies. The Mer-Prince was definitely unique but very, very short. The rest of the stories were a little formulaic but oh well, that happens when you deal with short one-shot stories.

This is a title that I'm going to say use your own judgement on. The over the top sweet boys can be a plus or a hindrance depending on how you look at it. If the idea of cutesy, cuddly boys is right up your alley then Almost Crying is for you. If the thought of these cutesy, cuddly boys being featured in boys love troubles you then you may want to hold off and either borrow it from someone you know or leaf through it at your local Borders to see if it is your cup of tea.

***Review Copy purchased through Yaoi Club***

Loveholic vol. 2 by Toko Kawai review

Loveholic vol. 2

Author/Artist: Toko Kawai

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – 16 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Comedy, Romance

Grade: B+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

The road of love is never smooth and now that Kentaro Nishioka (a photographer) and Daisuke Matsukawa (an ad man) have kicked their relationship up a notch they are going to find that out very quickly. Nishioka and a kohai (someone who is a junior in school or work) have the opportunity to pitch an ad campaign to a well-known jewelry company. But Nishioka and Fujii (the kohai) are in for a surprise when Daisuke is at a meeting representing his company. The gloves are off and Dai-chan (that's what Nishioka calls Daisuke) is ready to do all he can to get the job. He's jealous of Fujii. It seems that Dai-chan wants to be the only one to work so closely with Nishioka and no one else.

After this situation and its aftermath blow over another mountain comes into view. The higher-ups at Dai-chan's company have high hopes for him and want him to accept a promotion and move overseas and head the Foreign Affairs department. On the other side Nishioka is dealing with being the "in" photographer but the companies who hire him only want his name attached to the project and not necessarily take his advice. Both men are in a funk and don't know how to approach each other with the things that bother them. Stir in a trip that Nishioka has to make to Osaka to visit his father who has been hospitalized, and you have the makings of the story's climax.

If you are interested here is a link of the review I wrote for Loveholic vol. 1. There is something about Toko Kawai that draws you into the story and it won't let you go until the end. I don't know what it is because when you read any of her works she has a style that she goes with and many of her characters all look alike. That said, I still enjoy her art. I love how Kawai-sensei weaves humor into her stories without making it look like it's trying too hard to please readers. The intensity of the story is dialed up in this volume. I feel that this bit of angst is necessary to move the story to a successful and pleasing end. Another thing I noticed is the lack of the "rape = love" scenario that you see in so many titles released. It's a really nice change to see these two men get together because they do actually love each other. Nishioka is a bit shy in bed and with public displays of affection but he does love his man and loves being with his man.

Loveholic is a great series to start off with if you are interested in checking out the BL genre or if you want to check out some of Kawai-sensei's work. It isn't as explicit when it comes to sex and it focuses more on the relationship that these two men have outside of the bedroom. I definitely recommend it!

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Moon and the Sandals vol. 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga review

The Moon and the Sandals vol. 2

Author/Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Slice of Life

Grade: C

This second installment finishes the story that was contained in the first volume of The Moon and the Sandals.

Ida and Hashizume are living happily. Ida is still a high school teacher and Hashizume is a chef and has plans of opening up his own restaurant. In the case of Kobayashi and Toyo things are a bit more complicated. Naru-chan (Toyo's younger sister and crushing on Kobayashi) confessed her feelings and is now on the mend to the rejection she faced. She supports Kobayashi and Toyo's relationship and remains a close friend to Kobayashi. Toyo is a student at Tokyo University (aka Todai) and is facing life with the possibility of not having Kobayashi near. It turns out that Kobayashi was accepted into Todai, which means that the two can continue their hot and heavy relationship.

This volume wraps up everything nice and neat with very little fanfare. There aren't many surprises contained in the manga and it lets you know that they were going to have a happy ending. There isn't much left to say since I said it in my earlier review for the first volume. I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't have picked it up if I had to pay the $12.95 for the book.

Yoshinaga fans will enjoy this title immensely and those that aren't huge fans will enjoy it at least a little.

***Review Copy purchased through Yaoi Club***

The Moon and the Sandals vol. 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga review

The Moon and the Sandals vol. 1

Author/Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Slice of Life

Grade: C

Koichi Kobayashi has a crush on his World History teacher. It's normal for high school students to crush on their teachers but in the case for Kobayashi his teacher is male. Kobayashi is a very tall and handsome young man but looks intimidating so Mr. Ida (the World History teacher) doesn't know what to think when he's being "glared" at (according to Kobayashi he's "gazing"). Kobayashi wants to confess his feelings to his teacher but doesn't know how to go about it. He tracks down where Ida lives and finds him kissing some man. Ida is confused about his relationship with Hashizume and confides in Kobayashi. Getting his hopes up, Kobayashi thinks there might be a chance until Hashizume shows up and announces that he wants to live together with Ida. It looks like Kobayashi is going to have to accept this fate with grace.

Ida and Hashizume have been together for quite some time so Kobayashi moves on and ends up falling for his English tutor. He and a girl in his class, Naru-chan, are very good friends and Naru-chan usually helps him out with his studies. After an accident, she is hospitalized and has her older brother Toyo tutor him. In exchange Kobayashi has to make Toyo's lunch. Toyo is a huge, imposing, and aloof person but also very intelligent. He's also the sole member of the school's Mountaineering Club. Kobayashi and Giant (the nickname Kobayashi gave Toyo) don't get along at all. But as time moves forward the two become close friends and soon Toyo reluctantly enters into a relationship with Kobayashi. There is a problem though. It turns out that Naru-chan has fallen for Kobayashi.

The Moon and the Sandals follow these two couples in both ups and downs. The idea was interesting enough. You root for a relationship to blossom between Kobayashi and Ida but because things in life aren't all rainbows and gumdrops (why I channeled that line I have no idea) things work out differently. I can say that this wasn't too bad of a read. I only paid a fraction of the cost from the original price thanks to a huge mega mondo sale at Yaoi Club. Were it not for the low price I wouldn't have bought this title. It was somewhat enjoyable but it is a title that I'm only going to read once. The way that these characters interact with one another is interesting but can be tiresome in some places. The relationship between Kobayashi and Giant seems to be a little one sided and a bit unrealistic. But it's yaoi so it's always unrealistic.

The art is Yoshinaga-sensei's typical style so you know who created it. The story was interesting enough to keep me hooked to the end and to move on to the sequel, but it's not enough to convince me to read it over and over like some of Yoshinaga-sensei's other works. She has a large fan base and with some of the other titles I can kind of see why. But if you've read any of my other reviews for sensei's titles you'll know that I'm not a huge fan. What sensei lacks in art the story telling is what draws me in. I know that there are people who probably wish for my demise because of my stand but we are entitled to our own opinions, no?

If you like Yoshinaga-sensei chances are you'll love this title. But from my point of view read it if you want, but if you choose to not read it you aren't missing a whole lot.

***Review Copy purchased through Yaoi Club***

Solfege by Fumi Yoshinaga review


Author/Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – ages 16 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama Romance

Grade: C-

Kugayama is an elementary school music teacher. He's fairly apathetic towards his job and his students. Being a rich kid he has that luxury. He's just floating through life until a former student approaches him looking for help in getting into a music high school. Seeing Tanaka's enthusiasm for music brings purpose into Kugayama's otherwise boring life. Soon Kugayama finds himself attracted to the younger man and Tanaka relies on Kugayama for more than music lessons. Their relationship soon moves into a sexual one. Kugayama knows the danger of entering the relationship but he's so egotistical that the relationship continues. As soon as their relationship is discovered by Tanaka's vocal coach he ships him off to Italy to study, also to break off the taboo relationship that the two were embroiled in.

I think Juné loves Fumi Yoshinaga. It seems that the majority of Yoshinaga's works are published by Juné. I know that she has many fans out there in the world and I will admit to liking a couple of her titles, but I still can't bring myself to being obsessed with her work. I'm always willing to give her a shot though. Solfege is going to go down in history as a typical yaoi title with a formulaic story and highly stylized art that you either like or you don't. The uke has the dominant seme type personality – cold, egotistical, and forceful. The seme has the traditional uke personality – inexperienced, naïve, and trusting. Yes, the roles are flipped but it is still very typical which makes it a bit mundane for me. There isn't enough to the characters personalities for me to connect to them. They're either too dull or egotistical for me to feel for them.

Any time there is a manga with music and music education you've got my attention. With regards to Solfege I hemmed and hawed and couldn't decide if I wanted to purchase a copy of it. At Yaoi Club they were having a mega sale and so I figured that I would buy it because it was only a couple of bucks. In my honest opinion I paid what it was worth. I'm pretty sure that I will never read it again. Because I'm not a fan of Yoshinaga-sensei's art and the story wasn't strong enough to capture my attention I don't really need this manga in my collection.

I know that I'll probably have an angry mob amassed on my lawn because here is another Yoshinaga-sensei title I didn't really like, but just know that I don't think poorly of everything she's done. Normally I am so drawn into the story I am able to overlook my lack of passion for her art, but this time around this title has to go into my "Hey, I read it and now I can go on with my life" pile. The reason why I didn't give this a lower grade is because I do like sensei's chibis and this is one story and one story only in this manga. If you like Yoshinaga-sensei chances are you've read this title and loved it. But if you're like me and admire her storytelling this is one of the more lackluster titles and if you don't read it you aren't missing anything. But hey to quote LeVar Burton at the end of Reading Rainbow "Don't take my word for it." If it sounds interesting and you are leaning towards reading, go right ahead, don't let me stop you. You might like it.

***Review Copy purchased through Yaoi Club***